When we think about God, the traditional symbols usually come to thought: Father, King. These are Biblical examples of God but they are also male authority symbols. If we have had an estranged or difficult relationship with our dad, these symbols can steer us to feel about God in the way we have felt about our dad. Looking a bit deeper in the Bible we find God to represented a multitude of symbols: shepherd, lion, sheep, branch, rock, shield, fire, fortress1.

As we lie in meditation, let's intraspect on how we think of God and if necessary, make room for additional ways to envision our free spirited God who once claimed,"I am who I am"

1. Scanzoni, L.D. and Hardesty, N.A. (1992). All Were Meant To Be. William B Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI. (p. 19).

OUTCAST

It's easy to feel alone, confused, irrelevant. Often when I pipe up about something I believe I find myself isolated, outcast. I don't believe people are intentionally trying to hurt me its, just that I'm not ascribing to the status quo and that makes it a little more difficult to fit in.

Jesus prayed these words hours before he died an outcast:

I pray for them [those you gave me]. I do not pray for the world. I pray for those You gave Me. They are Yours. All that is Mine is Yours. All that is Yours is Mine. I have been honored through them. I am no longer in the world. I am coming to You. But these are still in the world. Holy Father, keep those You have given to Me in the power of Your name. Then they will be one, even as We are One. (John 17:9-11)

Jesus understood we would feel separated from our fellow believers and prayed we would keep our faith and be one. Jesus also experienced many episodes of social isolation from his family and friends and colleagues, though continued to love those who opposed him. As you take a moment of silence, remember Jesus prayed for you and sometimes when we find ourselves on the lonely road, we can trust it is right where we are supposed to be.

When Jesus came the world, it wasn't announced to the religious leaders, it was shared to the shepherds. The young, poor and uneducated. The shepherds didn't know to tell the angels that the sheep can't sing with them or messiahs don't come as the newborn of middle eastern refuges. Mark Nepo says, "Birds don't need ornithologists to fly." God doesn't need theologians or preachers to do miracles. God is looking for people who won't put him in a religious box, the people with childlike faith. When we analyze God we can miss the miracle and miss the message of God.1

As we lie still in meditation, allow God to move the walls that make the boundaries we feel comfortable for God to be in. God is everywhere with unlimited power and knowledge. Let's allow God to be without boundaries.

1 Batterson, Mark. (2016) A Theology of Mystery. Rediscovering Advent. Christianity Today, Carol Stream, IL.

"Praise be to God, because he has come to his people and redeemed them." --Luke 1:68

These are the words of a man who was silenced by God, his first words after regaining his voice. Zechariah was 1 of 18,000 priests selected to enter the Holiest of Holy spaces in the temple to pray for the nation. He found an angel in there and told his aging wife would have a baby (priests were allowed to marry back then!). When Zechariah doubted he was silenced, for nine months.

Nine months of silence changed the voice of Zechariah, before silence he doubted and after silence he had a different heart. God shapes us through our intentional times of silence. When we listen, we too can embrace the miracle God is using us for, as Zechariah learned to do. 

 

Every journey begins with a step.

A single step.

We all are facing an uphill walk, some steeper than others. The path usually isn't very straight.

As we lie still in meditation we can find peace. Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mathew 11:28). Jesus doesn't say he is going to take our labor and uphill journey away, he only promises rest.

In the following poem "Uphill", Christian Rossetti describes the journey and finding rest along the way.

 DOES the road wind uphill all the way? 
 Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day? From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place? A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face? You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight? They will not keep you waiting at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak? Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek? Yea, beds for all who come.

 [End in prayer to find rest in our journeys]

In stillness we hear the depths of God, the secrets of truth. The world is clamoring for our attention to distract us from hearing God who speaks within us. Daniel, was in a precarious situation trying to interpret the king's (a crazy king who distroyed the temple) dream. How can one know what is inside of another? God revealed the hidden and Daniels prayer is as follows found in Daniel Chapter 2:

“Blessed be the name of Our God,
    forever and ever.
Our God knows all, does all:
     Our God changes the seasons and guides history,
Our God raises up kings and also brings them down,
   Our God provides both intelligence and discernment,
Our God opens up the depths, tells secrets,
    sees in the dark—light spills out of Our God!
God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise!
    You made me wise and strong.
And now you’ve shown us what we asked for...
    [You’ve solved the king’s mystery.”]

Now let's be still and allow God to open the depths within.

download 2

The Bible records a discussion Jesus has with a young lawyer about two great commandments, the second being to love your neighbor as yourself (see Mark 12:31). Jesus goes on to teach that these commands are the most important and sum up all of the law!

With the political season among us, I felt it appropriate to guide us to look within ourselves to find the love of others. Especially of those who disagree with our opinions or act so ugly when expressing theirs. 

A friend of mine posted this prayer on her Facebook Page, I'm uncertain if she wrote it or was sharing it but it's plee is ideal to help us find the love we are called to share with our neighbor:

Dear God, 
Please grant me the gift of understanding. 
Help me to understand the feelings of others, 
the desires of others, the goals of others. 
At the same time, help me to understand myself in my actions and reactions. 

Widen my vision beyond my own small world 
to embrace with knowledge and love the lives of others. 
Help me, God, to always see you at work in my own life and in the lives of others. Bless me with insight, acceptance and love that is tempered by you who are all things to all people. Help me to understand, God. 
Amen.

Of Our Spiritual Strivings by ARTHUR SYMONS

O water, voice of my heart, crying in the sand,
  All night long crying with a mournful cry,
As I lie and listen, and cannot understand
    The voice of my heart in my side or the voice of the sea,
  O water, crying for rest, is it I, is it I?
    All night long the water is crying to me.

Unresting water, there shall never be rest
  Till the last moon droop and the last tide fail,
And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west;
    And the heart shall be weary and wonder and cry like the sea,
  All life long crying without avail,
    As the water all night long is crying to me.


 

 Psalm 138:6 says: God, high above, sees far below;
    no matter the distance.

Another translation says though God is almighty, God is compassionate and takes care of the humble.

We all have wounds, some fresh, some old. Life has a way of revealing our wounds and humbling us. It may be a relationship, or job, or loss of a loved one. It may just be heavy responsibility that is slowly bruising you. In our pain it's easiest to hide. Through meditation we can find the courage to allow ourselves to be seen with our wounds, knowing God cares, knowing shame does not have to be a part of our story.

As you lie still, look within to find your courage, the courage to be seen with your wounds. The courage to believe God is with you in your brokenness.

"If you are stressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment."--Marcus Aurelius

It is not God's will for you to live a stressed life. In fact, Jesus wants peace for us...

Let your hearts not be troubled (John 14:27)

I will give you rest (Mathew 11:28)

I speak these things that you may have peace (John 16:33)

As we lie in meditation we have the opportunity to consider the estimate we are giving our issues. Are you spending $500 of energy (or worry) on a $5 problem? We have the power to revoke our stress so let's do it! Choose a stressor to revoke and affirm to yourself, "I revoke _______"

[come to a seated position]

Let your heart not be troubled.

Affirmation: I have Christ, I have peace.

 

 

Yesterday in church I heard a message about how to be happy. One of the key ingredients is to find the awesome...the awesome God brings us. If we take a moment to think about it, it's really easy. 

My kids are doing well in school, that's awesome!

My house nearly survived another tornado, that's awesome!

This morning was absolutely beautiful, that's awesome!

Even in the difficult situations, there is something awesome. My mom is having serious struggles with her health, but she has access to doctors who can help her, that's awesome!

Take a few moments and consider what's awesome in your life...

Thank God for the awesome!

 

Watching the news and reading the papers brings to our attention how divided our world can be. Racial boundaries, economic boundaries, social boundaries, educational boundaries and more divide us. It's almost disheartening to think about. 

Finding solution in God's word is still pertinent:

Colossians 3:12-15Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 

As you meditate, consider who you may love, who you may forgive, who you may be patient with. Consider how your love can bind everything in perfect harmony. And may the peace of Christ dwell in you and your corner of the world!

FORGIVING GOD

This past week my community was hit by a very damaging tornado. This is second tornado that has ravished through my neighborhood in 3 years. The winds did spare my home as did they my family though many of my neighbors lost their homes. Life sometimes leaves us with more questions than answers. After the shock wore off I was dumbfounded and a little perturbed, perturbed with God. Yes I was spared, yes my family was safe, yes I can live a few days without electricity in August, yes God could have spared some of the exact same houses from getting hit from a tornado twice in 3 years. Saying I somehow have God's favor because my home was spared would be saying God had a curse for my neighbor...I just can't believe that.

Seeing my neighborhood destroyed by a tornado again has felt like a curse and has brought me to tears several times. Less than 36 hours after the tornado hit, God sends rain. It rained into the houses with open roofs and soiled what was left in the houses. I walked out into my driveway, looked up at the raining sky and asked "why?"

I didn't get an answer.

My perturbed swelled into resentment.

I don't believe I will get an answer to that "why?"

What I do believe is that God forgave me, so I can forgive God. And, so I did. Forgive as Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). We all experience uncontrollable circumstances, illnesses, deaths, betrayal. Sometimes we will never understand the why. When we take time to reflect and are honest with ourselves, we can find peace with God through forgiveness. 

You are who you are for a reason

by Russell Kelfer -

You are who you are for a reason.

You're part of an intricate plan.

You're a precious and perfect unique design,

Called God's special woman or man.

You look like you look for a reason.

Our God made no mistake.

He knit you together within the womb,

You're just what he wanted to make.

The parents you had were the ones he chose,

And no matter how you may feel,

They were custom designed with God's plan in mind,

And they bear the Master's seal.

No, that trauma you faced was not easy.

And God wept that it hurt you so;

But it was allowed to shape your heart 

So that into his likeness you'd grow.

You are who you are for a reason,

You've been formed by the Master's rod.

You are who you are, beloved,

Because there is a God!

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. In fact, without stress we would not be alive. Stress calls attention to meet our basic needs and stress is a gift informing us something needs to change. There are many types of stress, the regular being busy stress or the actual having a problem such as an unfixable health issue. How we respond to stress determines who we are. Let me say that again, how we respond to stress determines who we are. 

The most dangerous response to stress is seeded anger. Anger in of itself isn't a sin as there are many examples of a righteous anger. When anger, from a stress, becomes rooted in us, it is a cancerous poison that festers and spews into everything we do. We become angry, we become hard. No wonder Jesus taught us to love our enemies!

Take a moment and inventory your soul, are you angry? Is your heart hard?

Doing the deep emotional work to purge anger requires forgiveness. Forgiveness requires letting go of the emotional pain that is being so tightly held. Forgiveness isn't validating another who wronged you, its a releasing of the infectious anger and making room for better things. Let's make room for better things!

 

Let's take this moment to reflect. In the thick of it we lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes we are too close to have an acurate perspective of what God is orchestrating in our lives. Sometimes God is too far away.

When the Isrealites (finally) crossed the Jordan into their promised land, God orchestrated the waters of the Joran to stop flowing upstream...an estimated 19 miles away in the city of Adam. (Joshua 3). When the masses of people were ready to cross, the priests led the way and once they got their feet wet, the ragings waters of the Jordan stopped flowing. Evidently God knew exactly when the priests would put their toe in the water because that is the exact moment the water stopped. 

In our own lives, when all we can see is raging waters, perhaps in faith we can decide to get our feet wet. Pull back the lense on your life and decide to trust God is orchestrating something for your life 19 miles, 19 days, 19 weeks, or maybe even 19 years upstream, once you decide to get your feet wet!

 As we lie in silence we have an opportunity to go a little deeper and taste a little more of God. Our experiences of God are diverse and often clouded. Some of our experiences are very positive, others are more challenging. Faith has many faces.

All journeys of faith find time in dessert. Before Christ began his ministry, he spent 40 days in desert. Forty days of fasting, hungry, thirsty and tempted. He decided to trust God when spending time in hell. He fought with Satan, he emerged from the desert. The Israelites emerged from 40 years in the desert after submitting to God's plan. Several other Old Testament Prophets spent time in the desert. All believers find a time of their journey in the desert, this is an important time of sculpting who we are and what we believe about God. I personally found myself in the desert while in my 30s after my dad died in an accident and my son was suffering life threatening health issues. It took a few years to emerge from the desert, I'm not sure I'm entirely out.

The desert humbles us, the desert sculpts us, the desert reveals our heart and defines our faith. Listen to the lesson of Dt 8:2-6

Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth. Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child.

6-9 So it’s paramount that you keep the commandments of God, your God, walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him. Godis about to bring you into a good land, a land with brooks and rivers, springs and lakes, streams out of the hills and through the valleys. It’s a land of wheat and barley, of vines and figs and pomegranates, of olives, oil, and honey. It’s land where you’ll never go hungry—always food on the table and a roof over your head. It’s a land where you’ll get iron out of rocks and mine copper from the hills.

If you are going through a desert experience I encourage you to look for the good land promises and be unafraid to face your hell. Faithfully, God will emerge. 

Words can be our most powerful attribute. How we decide to use our words, what words and tone we decide to use can influence the course of lives.

Proverbs 16:25, "Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healing to the body."

Taking a moment to meditate on this, let it sink in that words can heal. Your words can heal. Take a moment and consider words that changed the course of your life, words that healed you. 

 Brad Meltzer is a New York Time Journalist and author who wrote the book Hero's For My Daughter*. There he shares about how his ninth grade teacher, Sheila Spicer was the first person to ever tell him he was good at writing. listen to his short essay:

When I was fifteen, my ninth grade English teacher told me I was in the wrong class.

'You can write,' she said.

From there, Ms Spicer tried to move me to the honors class, but because of a conflict in my schedule, it wouldn't work.

 So she took me aside and told me:

"For this entire year, I want you to ignore everything I do at the blackboard. Ignore all of the homework assignments I give. Ignore all the discussion. Instead, you're going to sit here and do the honors work."

And I did...

A decade past, and when my first novel was published, I went back to Spicer's class and knocked on the door.

"Can I help you?" she asked. (Of course she did not recognize me, the last time she saw me, I had a full head of hair.)

"My name is Brad Meltzer," I told her, handing her a copy of my first book. "And I wrote this for you."

Within seconds she was crying.

When I asked her why, she was thinking about retiring because she didn't feel she was having an impact anymore.

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "You have 13 students. We have only one teacher."

When I was fifteen, Sheila Spicer changed my life...

 

With lives full of responsibilities, obligations and unsolvable problems, we long to be strong. Strength helps us endure and move circumstances. We spend time in the gym conditioning our bodies for endurance for life's tasks. We take time for yoga to create strong flexible bodies. Life is easier when we have strength.

If we are only physically strong, we are hollow.

1 Timothy 4:8-9

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.

Take a moment and consider what you are strong in. It may be yoga, it may be administration, or managing a home, it may be your work or relationships or finances. Allow yourself to bask in that strength, just for this moment. Allow it to give you confidence. Feel your confidence.

A concept of developing strength is to push past comfortable boundaries. When we strength train we literally break down existing muscle so that it will repair and rebuild itself stronger. Now, as we lie in silence, allow yourself to move past your comfortable boundaries to grow strength within.

Strength starts from within. From within we decide to create time for fitness. From within we choose to love those who treat us badly. From within we embrace the promises of life now and life to come. May strength from within manifest in your life.

It's easy to allow petty frustration to steal joy. Someone cuts you off in traffic, you struggle to create enough quality time with family, your workload is increasing, the children aren't behaving, the clerk at the drive through messed up your order, perhaps you're frustrated with yourself because you are unable to stick with that workout plan. Frustrations mount up and steal joy. 

The Bible has the perfect defense for this, gratitude.

I Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in every situation because this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

in everything give thanks 1 thes 5 18

Remember in you mind what you are grateful for. Now, begin to say thank you out loud. Don't worry about disturbing your neighbor because they are speaking too! Continue to repeat thank you. Speaking more specifically, you may speak exactly what you are greatful for..

"My children, thank you."

"My job, thank you."

"My health, thank you."

"My home, thank you."

Taking time for thank you out loud will help you find your joy amongst the petty frustrations of life.

"My YOGATHEAs, thank you!